Although business people have painted a glowing picture of the opportunities in the youth market, the opposite end of the age spectrum has been largely neglected by marketers and frequently by society itself. Many people feel that American marketers have overboard in courting the youth market and particularly those aged 18–34. A recent survey found that over 40 percent of the nation’s leading advertisers said the 50 plus market has little impact on their current marketing strategies. An advertising executive observed that marketers have long concentrated only on consumers below the age of 49. He noted that beyond 49 the world ceases to exist, you fall of the edge. One of the problems with retailing in America is that merchants have lost touch with older customers – their customer has changed but they have not.
Why the neglect? Many marketers consider the youth market to be glamorous and exciting whereas older consumers are thought to be dowdy and uninspiring. Although this situation may be understandable psychologically it may make poor economic sense, because middle aged consumers hold considerably more promise for a wife range of consumer goods and services than do the wrong.
Nevertheless, many Americans even many marketers hold negative stereo types about the 5C plus market that are not based on fact. The following eight myths about this group can impede a company’s success in attracting older customers:
1) Older consumers are all the same. (Actually this is not a monolithic market at all, but rather one comprised of numerous segments).
2) They think of themselves as old. (Old age is typically 15 years older than they are, and doesn’t begin until well past 70)
3) They aren’t an important consumer segment (Those 50 and over possess almost half of all American discretionary income and account for almost one third of spending on ranges, refrigerators floor coverings, news cars jewelry and groceries).
4) They won’t try something new (A survey for Goldring & Company found that in the preceding 12 months 45 percent had tried a new brand of cereal and 30 percent had tried a new canned soup and soft drink brand).
5) They have impaired mental faculties. (Only about 5 percent have serious mental impairment. Moreover, intelligence tests reveal little change from age 17 to 80).
6) They are in poor health. (Most are not incapacitated and will remain healthy until their last years.)
7) They keep to themselves. Many are socially active, are involved as volunteers, and are taking on new responsibilities.
8) They aren’t physically active. A recent Gallup poll revealed almost half of those 65 and over regularly engage in exercise.
This section summarizes several important demographic characteristics of older consumers concentrating on those over age 65. This is actually only one segment of the so called mature market. Those 55 to 64 are called the older population; those 65 to 74 are elderly those aged 75 to 84 are called the aged and those 85 and over are the very old.
Size: In 1990, 32 million people in 20 million households in the United States were 65 years of age or older or almost 13 percent of our total population. Each census during this century has found the elderly to make up an increasingly larger share of the total population generally, and if present trends continue those 65 and over are expected to account for 22 percent of the population by 2030. Thus, statistics negate a long held that the United States is a nation of young people and is getting younger.
Location: The largest group of elderly consumers lives in the central cities of our metropolitan areas. This characteristic differs from the population as a whole, in which suburbanites outnumber residents of central cities.
States with the largest populations also have the largest numbers of senior citizens. For example, New York California Pennsylvania and Illinois account for nearly on third of the elderly. However, many states with the highest proportions of older people are those which have had heavy out migration by younger people. This is especially true of much of the Midwestern farm belt – Lowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklhoma, and South Dakota.
Many older people who have the means move toward the gerontopolises of the Sunbelt when they retire. Florida has the highest proportion of elderly of any state.